Volkswagen says the new Eos hardtop convertible is named after the Greek goddess of the dawn. All fine and good, but our nostalgia waxes more for the Greek goddesses often seen driving its predecessor, the VW Cabriolet. In our day -- yes, we had a day, thanks -- the VW Cabrio was simply the car for girls named Heather and Caitlin to drive around campus.

What a difference 15 years, two months and 19 days makes. While the Eos bears some spiritual relationship to the Cabrio, it's definitely its own machine. In hackneyed ad rehash-speak, this is not your tri-Delt big sister's Cabriolet. In part, that's due to the Eos' five-piece retractable roof that takes it from coupe to convertible in 25 seconds, with a sunny sunroof mode sandwiched in between. (Note to frat guys still reading: "sandwich" here has nothing to do with food, nor with the tri-Delts.)

And in fact, the Eos is a little more masculine than the old Cabriolet ever was, thanks to real horsepower under its tautly penned hood. Two engines will be offered in the Eos when it arrives at U.S. dealers in the fall: In September, you can have the 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four model for $28,620. Have patience and, in October, you'll be rewarded with VW's excellent 250-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 engine for $37,480.

Even with the higher powered engine, we're still OK with thinking of the Eos as the girl-car version of the new Golf/Rabbit. That's because there's a Scirocco boy-car version coming from the same Portuguese plant starting in late 2007, outfitted with the same powerplants.

Under pressure

Stereotypes in place, we sampled the new Eos outside of sunny Lisbon and continued to be impressed with VW's turbo four. The 2.0-liter engine graces nearly everything the company sells in the U.S. and that's tremendous for drivers. The 200-hp four simply has the flattest torque curve of any turbo engine we know, and its ample thrust keeps the 3386 pounds Eos cutting and darting through traffic with brio.

The turbo 2.0-liter pushes the Eos with a six-speed manual to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, Volkswagen claims. Top speed is limited to 130 mph.

Our test car had VW's six-speed version of the Tiptronic transmission, and together the engine and transmission were a more gainly team than the charged combo in, say, Volvo's C70 hardtop convertible. The VW powertrain simply has less of the rubberband feel in its gears and its blower. A manual's there to telegraph gender un-ambiguity, but our decided preference in any VW/Audi machine is the DSG transmission, paddle shifters and all.

Top this

The Eos owes a lot of its running gear to the Rabbit/Jetta platform, but with some distinct advantages. While the front end is largely Rabbit/Jetta, the rear suspension is based on the new Passat.

It's beefier because the heavier Eos needs the more rigid structure to support its hardtop convertible gear. A five-piece assembly that comes from supplier Webasto to the factory in a "plug-and-play" package, the roof uses eight electric motors to unlatch from the windshield header and flip and fold under the metal trunklid in 25 seconds. (An electric motor closes the trunklid the final few millimeters, too, to ensure the top doesn't get mangled by brute force.) The cargo area is a manageable 6.6 cubic feet with the top stowed, larger than that in the Pontiac G6 and Volvo C70 hardtop convertibles.

With the top down, a pair of wind blockers cuts down on air turbulence in the cockpit considerably. One mounts over the backseats and sits upright behind the front headrests, while another accordions up from the windshield frame. Though it's entertaining to push down and spring up for a while, the windshield wind blocker creates more noise than the value of its wind blocking.

A nifty buckle-shaped switch toggles the top up and down, while a single lift-or-press switch also lowers or raises all the windows for breezy driving.

There's also an intermediate step that makes the Eos a sunny coupe, too. The overhead section of the hardtop convertible consists of a glass panel and a sunshade so that, without retracting the entire roof assembly, the Eos feels open. The sunroof panel tilts up for ventilation, just as any conventional sunroof might do.

Slick roof up or down, the Eos has a dynamic look to it, especially with the top down, and the new corporate VW grille looks particularly appealing on it. But our minor quibble is that the Eos' lines aren't sexy by any measure. Like the Volvo C70, there's a matronly look to the Eos that doesn't adequately represent the sharp mechanicals underneath. After all, if you're going to be named for a goddess, you need to have a hot bod. Even if it is missing a head and arms.

A manly cockpit

The Eos' cabin sports GTI style and enviable Volkswagen materials, and room enough even for adult males. The guys in back, though, should be a little dainty. A short stint in the back reinforces the notion that "coupe," in the Eos' case, means "2+2," not "Eldorado."

Fine finishes and tight seams abound in the cockpit. Audi's clearly had a great influence on VW interiors over the past decade, and the Eos' big air vents, large cupholders and wonderful stereo/navigation system show that, finally, American fans of the brand aren't being ignored. The power seats on the Eos have memory features and are soothingly upholstered for long drives -- even brief naps, if the Portuguese sun overcomes you, too.

It's all understated and refined. What's more it's filled to the brim with safety stuff that will protect the Eos (and you) in a crash. Rollover protection comes in the form of twin hoops behind the back seats. Stability control is standard, as are front airbags and side airbags tall enough to protect your head and chest.

Getting the goat

Winding through Portugal, from the streets of Lisbon to the Atlantic coast's dramatically narrow roads, we grew fond of the Eos for the same reasons we're fans of the current GTI. It's almost all about the gutsy turbo four and the smooth shifting of the six-speed automatic. A top-down Eos outfitted with the turbo four and DSG is a well-engineered tool to carve up an afternoon's worth of favorite roads.

You'll do so in great comfort, even with the slight bit of squish tuned into the Eos that you'll detect when you transition from autobahn-smooth interstates to softer, crumblier side roads. The steering and braking never let up, though, in spite of the Eos' added heft. A stout body structure is remarkably quiver-free.

If it all comes down to looks, the Eos' shape may not ring every sensory bell in your central nervous system. It pleases the random tourists and goats on the roads outside Lisbon, but clearly the exterior shape is the product of regulations and hardtop-convertible packaging more than it is the ultimate expression of some designer's dream. Attractive but not gorgeous, the Eos would get a smile and a nod from Tyra Banks -- and then would be summarily dismissed.

But among its like -- the C70 and G6 -- the Eos is the standout. The base car comes with nice 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, and power features for a price nearly equal to the Pontiac and roughly $10,000 less than the Volvo. An option package that adds heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a power driver seat, and a wind blocker lifts the price to $30,620, while also tacking on the DSG six-speed transmission revs up the sticker price to $31,695. The V-6 version with DSG will be priced from $37,480 when it arrives in October.

The standard Eos goes on sale in September.

Share This Photo X